Old-Fashioned Ball Games for Kids

These old-fashioned ball games for kids don't require much equipment and don't need a certain number of children. They are flexible and fun. Parents and grandparents may participate, or they may serve as facilitators and mediators. Rules will have to be adjusted for kids of different ages or for different playing fields. The most important role for parents and grandparents is that of an enthusiastic spectator. A few cheers might even be in order.

These games are fun for family reunions, multigenerational vacations, and other celebrations. Those involving a large, softball can be enjoyed by young children and older ones, whereas those using a ball and a bat are more suitable for tween grandchildren on up.

Flies and Grounders

A grandfather throws a baseball to his grandson in a park
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This is possibly the most informal game on the list. It probably began life as a baseball drill. Two players toss a ball back and forth. Catching a ball in the air is worth two points. Fielding a grounder is worth one point. Each player tries to fool the other player about whether a fly or grounder is coming. If a ball is not catchable, the receiving player gets another chance. Play continues until a certain score is reached, or until the players get tired of the game.

Five Dollars

Boys playing outside on a court
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Sometimes known as 500, this game can be played with a variety of rules and a variety of balls. The ball can be thrown, kicked or batted. One player handles the ball. The others place themselves in good positions to field the ball. Players earn money for fielding the ball. A grounder earns 25¢. A ball that bounces once earns 75¢. Two bounces are good for 50¢, and three is good for 25¢. A fly ball earns $1. The first player to earn $5 becomes the ball handler for the next round. Some play that the player must reach exactly $5.

Crack Up

Children playing Four Square
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This game requires a large softball and five or so players. "It" has the ball and throws it at one of the other players. The player is thrown at can either dodge the ball or catch it. If the player is hit, he loses a point. If the player catches the ball, "it" loses a point. If the ball is not caught, any player can grab the ball and become "it." When a player loses five points, he is out of the game. The game continues until there is only one player left. That player is the winner.

Four-square is another game using a large softball.


A family playing in a backyard
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This game is played with a soft playground ball. Before beginning the game, the limits of the playing area should be defined so that players can't run too far away. The player selected as "it" counts to ten while the other players run away, then freeze on ten. Then "it" is allowed to take four giant steps toward any one player before trying to hit them with the ball. If the player is hit, he gets an S and becomes "it." If the player who is "it" misses, he gets an S. When a player gets four letters, spelling S-P-U-D, he is out of the game. The winner is the last to be eliminated.

You can also use a playground ball to play kickball.

Hit the Bat

Grandfather and Grandson playing baseball
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This game is usually played with a tennis ball and a bat. One person bats and everyone else scatters fielding distance away. The batter tosses the ball up and hits it. He then places the bat crosswise on the ground in front of him. The person who fields the ball can run toward the batter until the bat is placed on the ground. The fielder then rolls the ball at the bat. When the ball hits the bat, it pops up. If the batter does not catch the ball, the fielder is up to bat. If the batter does catch the ball, or if the fielder misses the bat, the batter keeps hitting.

Run Down

Baseball player
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This game is played with two bases placed about 20 feet apart. Two players are selected to be "it." Each stands on a base, and they toss a softball back and forth. The other players divide up between the two bases and take turns trying to "steal" a base—that is, run from one base to the other without being tagged. A player who is tagged becomes "it." This game works for as few as three kids or for quite a few more.

Keep Away

Playing Keep Away
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This is a ball game for three kids. Two people stand in predetermined areas and toss a ball back and forth, while the person in the middle has to try to catch it. When the person in the middle catches it, he trades places with the person who threw the ball. Some versions have the middle player playing in a circle about ten feet in diameter, while the other players stand outside the circle. If there is a great discrepancy in height, requiring that the ball bounce once in the circle will level the playing field.


Playing Flinch
Hill Street Studios

One player is "it." The other players line up against a wall with their arms folded. Another player stands at least eight feet away with a softball. The player who is "it" will either throw the ball at one of the lined-up players or fake a throw. The players who are being thrown at have to maintain their positions with arms folded when the ball is faked and catch the ball when it is actually thrown. Flinching when the ball is faked or failing to catch a thrown ball earns a player a letter. The first player to spell out F-L-I-N-C-H becomes "it." Those who are familiar with HORSE basketball will get the picture!

Say and Catch

Children playing with ball in the park
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Players stand in a circle. Before each game, the players decide on a category for the game. If they decide upon animals, for example, they must say the name of an animal before they catch the ball. If they can't come up with a name, or if they miss the ball, they are out. The ball is thrown randomly. The last player remaining wins the game. This is a good game for young school-age grandchildren.

Down Down

Playing ball

Players form a circle and throw the ball among themselves. Alternately, players can form a semi-circle around one player who throws the ball. (This is a good role for a parent or grandparent). The play is thrown randomly so that players can't anticipate when they will be thrown the ball. A player who misses a ball must go down on one knee. On the second miss, the player goes down on both knees. The third miss requires one hand be put behind the back. The fourth miss means that the player is out. A successful catch, however, means that a player can move up one position. The last person remaining is the winner.

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